Burning Issues- United Nations Peacekeeping

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What is peacekeeping

  • It’s an effective tool available to United Nations to assist the countries torn by conflict to navigate the path towards peace.
  • Peacemaking has unique strengths like legitimacy, burden sharing, ability to deploy and sustain troops and police from around the globe, integrating them with civilian peacekeepers to advance multidimensional mandates.
  • It provides security, political and peace building support to countries to make a transition from conflict to peace
  • Currently there are 15 peacekeeping operations deployed on four continents
  • The peacekeeping operations also facilitate the host countries in political process, protect civilians, assist in the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of former combatants; support the organization of elections, protect and promote human rights and assist in restoring the rule of law


Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO)

  • It provides political and executive direction to UN Peacekeeping operations around the world and maintains contact with the Security Council, troop and financial contributors, and parties to the conflict in the implementation of Security Council mandates.
  • It also provides guidance and support on military, police, mine action and other relevant issues to other UN political and peacebuilding missions.

   Four main offices of DPKO

  1. Office of Operations– It provides political and strategic policy and operational guidance and support to the missions. More on our peacekeeping operations
  2. Office of Rule of Law and Security Institutions– It was established in 2007 to strengthen the links and coordinate the Department’s activities in the areas of police, justice and corrections, mine action and weapons/ammunition management, the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of ex-combatants and security sector reform
  3. Office of Military Affairs– It works to deploy the most appropriate military capability in support of United Nations objectives; and to enhance performance and improve the efficiency and the effectiveness of military components in United Nations Peacekeeping missions.
  4. Policy, Evaluation and Training Division– The division is mandated to develop and disseminate the policy and doctrine guiding the work of Peacekeeping. In addition, the division has the responsibility to evaluate, at the request of the heads of the departments, how those policies are being applied, gather lessons learned and best practices, and use that information to guide the development, coordination and delivery of standardized training, so as to complete the learning cycle. Department of Policy Evaluation and Training is also responsible for developing and maintaining strategic cooperation with various UN and external partners.
  5.  Department of Field Support-(DFS)
  • The Department of Field Support (DFS) provides dedicated support to international peace operations, including to UN peacekeeping, special political and other field missions.
  • DFS works with UN and non-UN partners to plan mobilize and sustain operations in the world’s most complex environments.
  • The Department’s services range from budget, finance, human resources and technology to supply chain, facility and asset management.

The Department has four divisions:

  • Field Personnel Division
  • Field Budget and Finance Division
  • Logistics Support Division
  • Information & Communications Technology Division

What is the job profile of UN peacekeeping missions

  • To create conditions of lasting peace with a viable political process by supporting and not substituting the national efforts
  • Peacekeepers protect civilians, actively prevent conflict, reduce violence, strengthen security and empower national authorities to assume these responsibilities. This requires a coherent security and peacebuilding strategy that supports the political strategy. UN peacekeeping helps host countries to become more resilient to conflict, laying the groundwork to sustain long-term peace, including by addressing root causes of conflict.

The main duties of the peacekeepers are:

  • Protect civilians
  • Prevent conflicts
  • Strengthen Rule of Law
  • Promote human rights
  • Empower women
  • Deliver field support

How is UN peacekeeping funded

  • The financing of UN Peacekeeping operations is the collective responsibility of all UN Member States.
  • In accordance with the provisions of Article 17 of the Charter of the United Nations, every Member State is legally obligated to pay their respective share towards peacekeeping.
  • The complex formula established by member states, to apportion peacekeeping expenses, takes into account, among other things, the relative economic wealth of Member States, with the five permanent members of the Security Council required to pay a larger share because of their special responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security.

The top 10 providers of assessed contributions to United Nations Peacekeeping operations for 2017 are:

  • United States (28.5%)
  • China (10%)
  • Japan (9.5%)
  • Germany (6.5%)
  • France (6%)
  • United Kingdom (5.5%)
  • Russian Federation (4%)
  • Italy (3.75%)
  • Canada (3%)
  • Spain (2.5%)

Principles of peacekeeping

These three principles are interrelated and mutually reinforcing:

Consent of the parties

The operations are deployed with the consent of the main parties to the conflict. This requires a commitment by the parties to a political process. Their acceptance of a peacekeeping operation provides the UN with the necessary freedom of action, both political and physical, to carry out its mandated tasks


Impartiality is crucial to maintaining the consent and cooperation of the main parties, but should not be confused with neutrality or inactivity. United Nations peacekeepers should be impartial in their dealings with the parties to the conflict, but not neutral in the execution of their mandate.

 Just as a good referee is impartial, but will penalize infractions, so a peacekeeping operation should not condone actions by the parties that violate the undertakings of the peace process or the international norms and principles that a United Nations peacekeeping operation upholds

Non-use of force except in self-defense and defense of the mandate

UN peacekeeping operations are not an enforcement tool. However, they may use force at the tactical level, with the authorization of the Security Council, if acting in self-defence and defence of the mandate

Basic details

History of UN Peacekeeping

  • UN Peacekeeping was born at a time when Cold War rivalries frequently paralyzed the Security Council.
  • Peacekeeping was primarily limited to maintaining ceasefires and stabilizing situations on the ground, providing crucial support for political efforts to resolve conflict by peaceful means.
  • Those missions consisted of unarmed military observers and lightly armed troops with primarily monitoring, reporting and confidence-building roles.
  • The operations began in 1948 when the Security Council authorized the deployment of UN military observers to the Middle East to carry out the operation known as United Nations Truce Supervision Operation (UNTSO)

Changing Nature of Peacekeeping Operations (POs)

  • In the beginning, the goals were primarily limited to maintaining ceasefires and stabilizing situations on the ground
  • The missions consisted of military observers and lightly armed troops with monitoring, reporting and confidence-building roles in support of ceasefires and limited peace agreements.
  • Troops and police came from a relatively small number of countries and they were almost exclusively men
  • Today, the UN Peacekeeping has adapted to meet the demands of different conflicts and a changing political landscape.
  • Today’s multidimensional peacekeeping operations are called upon not only to maintain peace and security but also to facilitate the political processes, protect civilians, disarm combatants, support elections, protect and promote human rights and restore the rule of law.
  • Women peacekeepers today play an increasingly prominent role and are crucial towards improving the performance of our missions. They serve as police officers, troops, pilots, military observers, and other uniformed and civilian posts, including in command positions

Success of POs

  • The UN peacekeeping has been working for more than 60 years and have won the prestigious Nobel Peace Prize in 1988.
  • By providing basic security guarantees and responding to crises, the UN operations have supported political transitions and helped buttress fragile new state institutions. They have helped countries to close the chapter of conflict and open a path to normal development, even if major peacebuilding challenges remain.
  • Since 1948, the UN has helped end conflicts and foster reconciliation by conducting successful peacekeeping operations in dozens of countries, including Cambodia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mozambique, Namibia and Tajikistan, Sierra Leone, Burundi, Côte d’Ivoire, Timor-Leste, Liberia, Haiti, and Kosovo

Way Forward

Four Essential Shifts are needed in POs

  • Politics must drive the design and implementation of peace operations because lasting peace is achieved not through military and technical engagements, but through political solutions.
  • The full spectrum of United Nations peace operations must be used more flexibly to respond to changing needs on the ground
  • A stronger, more inclusive peace and security partnership is needed for the future
  • The United Nations Secretariat must become more field-focused and United Nations peace operations must be more people-centred

New approaches needed in POs

  • Conflict prevention and mediation must be brought back to the fore
  • Protection of civilians is a core obligation of the United Nations, but expectations and capability must converge
  • Clarity is needed on the use of force and in the role of United Nations peace operations and others in managing armed conflict
  • Political vigilance is needed to sustain peace

Empowering the field and strengthening the foundations

  • Setting clear direction and forging common purpose
  • Improving the speed, capability and performance of uniformed personnel
  • Strengthening global and regional partnerships
  • Putting policy into practice
  • Engaging with host countries and local communities
  • Addressing abuse and enhancing accountability
  • Improving support systems to enable more responsive and accountable peace operations
  • Supporting innovation and important resourcing requirements
  • Improving Headquarters leadership, management and reform

 Uniting the  strengths

  • The United Nations must unite its strengths, which include politics, partnership and people, to meet the challenges ahead.
  • Political strategies must drive peace operations.
  • Partnerships will be essential to future success in the face of long – running and new crises.
  • People must be firmly put at the centre of the efforts of United Nations peace operations.

Reforming UN Peacekeeping

Efforts to reform the UN’s peace and security architecture began soon after the establishment of the world body and have continued ever since with varied results.

  • The early reforms were driven primarily by international developments, notably the  Cold War, as well as the rapid process of decolonization and the expanding membership of the UN.
  • Similarly, the early friendliness of the post-Cold War era, coupled with the surge in peace agreements, led to the creation of the department of peacekeeping operations (DPKO) and the publication of “An Agenda for Peace” in 1992.
  • Soon thereafter, following the disastrous failures in Mogadishu (1993), Rwanda (1994) and Srebrenica (1995), the Brahmi report on UN peace operations, published in 2000, sought comprehensive reforms of the DPKO.
  • The adoption of UN Security Council resolution 1325 on women, peace and security in 2000 and the establishment of the norm of the responsibility to protect (R2P), adopted in the 2005 World Summit outcome document.
  • More recently, the 2015 “High-Level Independent Panel On Peacekeeping Operations” (HIPPO) report sought to redress the growing expectations of UN peacekeeping with its growing inadequacies.

About the 2018 reforms

In March 2018, UN secretary general António Guterres submitted an ambitious blueprint for the consideration of the UN general assembly to restructure the organization’s peace and security pillar.

Goals of the 2018 reforms

  • To prioritize prevention and sustaining peace
  • To enhance the effectiveness and coherence of peacekeeping operations and special political missions
  • To make the pillar coherent, nimble and effective
  • To align the peace and security pillar more closely with the development and human rights pillars to create greater coherence and cross-pillar coordination

Challenges in implementing the 2018 reforms

  • There are three sets of actors involved in success or failure of peace and security reforms 1. Member states (who constitute the so-called “first UN”); 2. The Secretariat (which makes up the “second UN”); and 3. Civil society—both within states and on the international stage (who are recognized as the “third UN”). None of these sets of actors are monolithic. In fact, the differences are often most pronounced within the same set of actors. The differences within these groups have thwarted previous reforms
  • The second challenge is of raising financial resources to ensure the changes. Donald Trump’s “America First” policy, coupled with an aversion to multilateralism, indicates that Washington might yet cut its share of the UN budget.
  • Thirdly the political interests of some member states are served in maintaining the present structure. Such states might oppose the reforms
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